STARTING DEMO: Work begins on future court services site

An architectural rendering of the exterior of the planned new court services building for the county at First Street and Lafayette Avenue. Photo provided Submitted photo

Work is underway at the future site of Bartholomew County’s new court services center.

The new center will be constructed at 555 First St., the former site of Eynon Law offices. The Columbus Department of Public Works began demolition at the site on Monday morning, and the building was down later that day, said Columbus Redevelopment Director Heather Pope.

“It’s a big step,” she said. She added that she’s excited to see the long-waited project finally start to become a reality.

A small amount of asbestos was detected at the site during a survey and was properly remediated by an environmental company prior to demolition, Pope said.

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In addition to demolishing the building and removing its debris, the city has removed landscaping as well as a sign at the site. After the city is done at the site, the county will do some work on the property.

“The county will be removing the asphalt, the concrete and the concrete curb, and then removing or relocating any of the utilities,” she said.

After the county has finished, the site will be ready for the project’s contractors. The city has chosen to engage Dunlap & Co., Inc. for general and mechanical work on the project and Barth Electric Co., Inc, of Indianapolis, for electrical work.

Project architect Steve Risting said that Dunlap plans to begin work by the end of the month. The company plans to complete the project in 12 months, he said.

The project’s schedule was pushed back a couple of weeks, with heavy snow in February presenting obstacles to transportation and logistics, Pope said. The city also had to notify the Indiana Department of Environmental Management about the asbestos removal 10 days prior to demolition, she said.

The new court services center is part of a larger arrangement for changes coming to Columbus’s downtown.

Plans call for the current court services building, located in the former Elks Club at 507 Third St., to be torn down. That would empty an entire county-owned block for the city’s new hotel and conference center between Second, Franklin, Third and Lafayette streets.

The city receives that property as part of a land swap. In exchange, construction of the new court services building will mostly be handled by the city. Taylor Brothers Construction Co. has been selected by the Bartholomew County Commissioners to manage pre-construction and construction phases for the building.

While plans for the new court services center are moving forward, Sprague Hotel Developers has put the hotel/conference center project on hold for the time being, due to the impacts of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry.

The proposed hotel/conference center is a major piece of the city’s 2018 Envision Columbus downtown strategic development plan. It has been described as a road map for the future of the commercial area of downtown Columbus and its neighboring residential areas and parks.

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Construction of Bartholomew County’s new court services center will likely be completed in early 2022.

The new court services building will be 9,344 square feet in size and one-story tall, expected to cost between $3 million and $3.5 million, county officials said.

Architect Steve Risting of Indianapolis, perhaps best known for his work on the 2019 St. Bartholomew Church expansion, created a design that reflects the jail and community corrections facility located on the north side of First Street from where the new structure will be built, county officials said.